Survey chapter: Krio

Structure data for these languages can be found in structure dataset 15.

1. Introduction

Krio is an English-lexifier creole that is used as a lingua franca in Sierra Leone though it is the native language of a small percentage of the population of Sierra Leone, estimated at somewhere between 5–10%, living primarily in the Western Area peninsula (including Freetown). Approximately 350,000 of the estimated 5.5 million people of Sierra Leone are native Krio speakers and in addition over 4 million people probably use it, non-natively, as lingua franca. As a lingua franca, Krio is the default language of communication in Sierra Leone, particularly in the major cities including Freetown. Regardless of the multiple primary languages used in Sierra Leone, a majority of residents are proficient enough in Krio and are capable of using it to conduct meaningful conversation in various domains of communication.

2. Sociohistorical background

One suggestion regarding the origin of the name Krio is that it was a modification of the word creole. Another suggestion is that the name is derived from Yoruba Akiriyo (‘we go-about-aimlessly full or satisfied’) meaning ‘those who habitually go about paying visits after church service’, as the Krios usually did and still do (Fyle & Jones 1980: 302). This proposal is echoed by Wyse (1989: 6), who stated that Krio is derived from Yoruba Kiriyo (‘to walk about and be satisfied’) in reference to the practice of the Krio settlers in Sierra Leone of visiting family and friends on their way home from a church service.

            There are multiple proposals regarding the socio-historical background of Krio. The more popular account argues for the emergence of Krio from creoles of the Americas (i.e. Atlantic Creole varieties), with which Krio shares some linguistic similarities.

            Huber (1999, 2000) proposes that Krio emerged from varieties of creoles used primarily by four groups of settlers, who were freed slaves primarily from four areas. They were resettled in the Sierra Leone peninsula, including Freetown, between 1787 and 1850 (Huber 1999: 59–65; Huber 2000: 276–277). The original settlers (The Black Poor) arrived in the Sierra Leone peninsula from England in 1787. They were followed by a much larger and more significant group (in terms of linguistic contributions) in two separate shipments – the Nova Scotians (freed slaves relocated in Nova Scotia, Canada) in 1787 and the Jamaican Maroon settlers in 1796. Creole languages from the West Indies, particularly the variety brought by the Jamaican Maroon settlers, are proposed (Huber 1999) to have had significant input into what has evolved into present-day Krio. The final group – the Liberated Africans (or Recaptives) – were mainly recaptured would-be slaves from slave ships intercepted by the British fleet patrolling the West African coast that were released and resettled in the Sierra Leone peninsula.

            The Liberated Africans were from multiple regions in West Africa, though most of them originated from regions where Yoruba, Igbo, Akan, and Gbe were the predominant languages. Of these, the Yoruba speakers constituted the largest group. Wyse (1989: 2) claims that a significant proportion of Liberated Africans also originated from the hinterland of Sierra Leone, which was then predominantly inhabited by speakers of Mende, Temne, and Limba, three of the largest linguistic groups in present-day Sierra Leone. The Liberated Africans were resettled in villages outside Freetown in the Sierra Leone peninsula, and, with increased interaction with the Maroons and Nova Scotians, developed a new variety of creole that incorporated features of the creoles used by the Maroons and Nova Scotians. This variety was described in transcripts written by British colonists as a “barbarous”, “defective”, “gibberish” and “jargon” form of English (Huber 2000: 282, 285).

            A contrary view of the origin of Krio is held by Hancock (1986, 1987), who proposes that the original core creole emerged along the Upper Guinea Coast of West Africa in the 1600s long before the trans-Atlantic slave trade. There is evidence of British settlement on the Upper Guinea Coast and written reports of interaction, including intermarriages, between Europeans and Africans during this period. Descendants of the intermarriages ­– referred to as Mulattos – became the first creole speakers. Creoles in the Americas partly originated from this protocreole (Guinea Coast Creole English), which was transmitted to the Americas by slaves transported by English and Dutch traders. According to Hancock, present day Krio is an offshoot of Guinea Coast Creole English. Texts of Guinea Coast Creole English recorded by eyewitnesses in the 17th and 18th centuries illustrate similar grammatical features and lexical items between modern Krio and Guinea Coast Creole English. The presence of these features and items in present-day Krio, Hancock maintains, is evidence that the emergence of Krio predates the resettlement of freed slaves in Sierra Leone. Guinea Coast Creole English was later exported to other regions in West Africa during the era of colonization in the 19th century, where it influenced varieties such as Cameroon Pidgin English (see Schröder) and Nigerian Pidgin (see Faraclas).

Singler (1992) also mentions the existence of an English-lexifier pidgin along the West African coast long before the advent of the settlers from the Americas, and that Nigerian Pidgin possibly developed from this pidgin and was later influenced by Krio. Singler, however, does not give any indication as to whether this pidgin was the same as or different from the Guinea Coast Creole English that Hancock proposed nor does he mention any possible influence of this pidgin on Krio.

3. Sociolinguistic situation

According to Wyse (1989: 1), a covert aim of the British was to use the Krios as “Black Englishmen” to propagate values of European “civilization” (including language, politics, education, attire, names, individualism, etc.) in “darkest Africa”. Thus, the Krios for the most part adopted European clothes, names, and traditions. Nevertheless, they have also adopted the African value of societal pluralism rather than European individualism; most now assign middle names of African origin (primarily Yoruba) to their children. This was referred to by Wyse as “a happy marriage between European and African cultures” (Wyse 1989: 10) and is sometimes a contributing factor to the ambivalent attitude toward the language by native Krio speakers. The language is generally embraced as a symbol of Krio identity but at the same time is disparagingly referred to by some native speakers as “broken English”. English, as the official language and medium of instruction in academic institutions, continues to hold the status of the language of prestige, while Krio is perceived to be an inferior form of English and believed to have a negative influence on the development of English, since it was assumed that Krio speakers will transfer Krio linguistic properties in their use of English. This has resulted in the increasing use of the acrolect variety as a symbol of class, education, and “culture” (fashioned after the British) and the co-existence of parallel lexical items (Anglicized Krio vs. what is derogatively referred to as “Broad” Krio). This originated during the pre-independence colonial times when the assumption (propagated by the European settlers) was that Krio was a distortion of English and continued to stress the importance of English over local languages, a trend that some present-day successful Krio families have emulated. For example:

(1)       windo vs. winda                                                               ‘window’

            brɛd vs. bred                                                                      ‘bread’

            rais vs. rɛs                                                                        ‘rice’

            sink vs. was an besin (literally: ‘wash-hand basin’)     ‘sink’

            bɔkɛt vs. bokit                                                                   ‘bucket’

            stul vs. kaka or pupu                                                        ‘feces’

            Recent attitudes toward Krio are increasingly positive, and the language is now used in a number of social, political, and educational contexts. It is used extensively in the broadcast media (radio and TV) and is one of the languages in which the national news is read. It is, however, used sparingly in the print media (probably due to the fact that the proposed standard orthography is still in its infant stage). It is also used extensively by politicians and aspiring politicians in addressing the public during political campaigns. The use of Krio was banned in primary and secondary schools for a long period of time, and corporal punishment was meted out to school children guilty of this “offence”. Ironically, since it was incorporated into the educational curriculum during the past two decades, Krio has been one of the most popular languages taught in educational institutions.

            In the last two decades, Krio grammar has further been influenced by input from non-native Krio speakers, most of whom were displaced by the civil war in the 1990s and resettled in Freetown. Most of these new Freetown residents formerly resided in the provinces where they used both Krio (non-natively) and their primary languages (Mende, Temne, and Limba being the most populous). After relocating in Freetown, Krio became the language they used almost exclusively, which has resulted in some of the variant Krio grammatical forms they produced becoming incorporated into the Krio grammar used by native and non-native speakers alike. In consequence, these variant forms now coexist as parallels to the original Krio forms and expressions. For example:

(2)       wetin   yu        briŋ              mi        (native speech)

            what   you      bring   for       mi

            ‘What did you bring (home) for me?’

            wetin   yu        sɛn               mi        (non-native)

            what   you      send    for       me

            ‘What did you bring (home) for me?’

(3)       dɛn      de        bil        os                    (native speech)

            they     prog   build   house

            ‘They are building a house.’

            dɛn      de        pan                 bil          os       (non-native)

            they     prog   in.process.of  build     house

            ‘They are building a house.’

            Though some native Krio speakers, accepting change as inevitable, incorporate new non-native forms into their speech, others have striven to maintain the “purity” of the language, have criticized and rejected the non-native parallels, and have persisted in using the original native forms and expressions.

            The official attitude to Krio remains ambivalent. It is one of the languages recognized in broadcasting, but its use by school children has sometimes resulted in strong disciplinary action. Since 1977, different political regimes have contemplated using an indigenous language or indigenous languages in formal education. Pilot studies included Mende and Temne (comprising about 60% of the population) and Limba (the next most populous). Krio was not considered because of its small base of native speakers (about 10% or less of the population). However, there has been recent talk of possibly using Krio in some official capacity because of its widespread use as a lingua franca, but not much progress has been made. Current negative attitudes (by native and non-native Krio speakers) to the linguistic status of the language and the lack of a well-developed and publicized standard writing system have made this a low-priority issue for successive governments in Sierra Leone. Attempts to establish and publicize a standard orthography for Krio are on-going, but most linguists still use phonetic/phonemic symbols to represent Krio lexical items.

4. Phonology

The inventory of vowels in Krio includes seven monophthongs (see Table 1), all of which can be nasalized. Most, though not all, nasal vowels occur in words borrowed or derived from English, in which an oral vowel is followed by a nasal consonant. The nasal consonant is deleted and the vowel is nasalized.

Table 1. Vowels















Krio also has three diphthongs: /ai/, /au/, and /ɔi/.

The consonant inventory comprises the 24 phonemes in Table 2:

Table 2. Consonants
































ʁ <r>








    j <y>

A common phonological process is consonant cluster reduction, which is applied to lexical items of English origin containing two or more consonants in a row including an initial s. For example (Finney 2007):

(4)            plit       ‘split’

                 trit       ‘street’

                 tap       ‘stop’

                 tret      ‘straight’

                 prɛd    ‘spread’

                 pit        ‘spit’

Stopping substitution – substituting a stop for a fricative – is also common in words of English origin. For example:

(5)            ebi       ‘heavy’

                 dɛbul   ‘devil’

                 tit         ‘teeth’

                 tɛŋki    ‘thanks’

                 dɛm     ‘them’

                 brɔda  ‘brother’

Influence of West African languages is evident in the presence of the labio-velar plosives /kp/ and /gb/, as in:

(6)            kpatakpata        ‘completely finished’

                 agbo                  ‘medicinal herb’

                 gbagbati            ‘show of force’

                 akpɔlɔ                frog’

            Krio is also a tone language (likely another influence of West African languages) and makes contrastive use of tone in words of both African and English origins. Some minimal pairs in Table 3 (Finney 2004).

Table 3. Minimal pairs of words distinguished by tone patterns

LL (low-low)

LH (low-high)

HL (high-low)

HH (high-high)


 ‘skin-irritating herb’


‘go away’


‘a young boy’


 ‘a barber’


 ‘a type of drum’


‘a medicinal herb’


 ‘open public place’


 ‘a baby’;  ‘a doll’


‘girlfriend’; ‘attractive young woman’


‘elder brother or older male relative’




‘a Catholic priest’






 ‘someone from the countryside’


 ‘a country’


 ‘a dull and inexperienced person’


 a square’ (shape)

5. Noun phrase

There is no gender distinction regarding nominal forms in Krio, though in a few cases the markers man ‘man’, uman ‘woman’, bɔi ‘boy’, or gyal ‘girl’ may be attached to a noun to indicate natural gender. For example:

(7)            man pus              ‘male cat’

                 uman pus            ‘female cat’

                 bɔi pikin              ‘male child’

                 gyal pikin            ‘female child’

The nominal plural is generally indicated by the use of the postposed plural marker dɛm (which is also the third person plural pronoun). This marker is not used in cases where the noun is preceded by a quantifier adjective (e.g. bɔku ‘many’) or a plural numeral (e.g. tri ‘three’).  For example:

(8)            pus dɛm               ‘cats’

                 bɔku pus             ‘many cats’

                 pikin dɛm            ‘children’

                 tri pikin               ‘three children’

As for articles, non‐specific generic NPs are marked by a zero article while specific NPs generally require overt articles – di (definite) and wan (indefinite) – which invariably precede a countable noun. For example:

(9)            bed    de           na       di         rum

                 bed   there      loc     art      room

                 ‘The room has a bed/beds.’

(10)   a.    di titi                       ‘the girl’        

         b.    wan titi                   ‘a girl’

The demonstratives occur in pre-adjectival position and include dis ‘this’, dat or da ‘that’, and dɛn ‘these’ or ‘those’.

     Dependent and independent personal pronouns differ only in the first and third person singular for subject pronouns and only in the third person singular for object pronouns. The adnominal possessive pronouns and the independent pronouns are identical (see Table 4).

Table 4. Personal pronouns



adnominal possessives

reflexive pronouns







































Adnominal possessives precede the noun. Additionally, pronominal possessives can be used in Krio by combining the adnominal possessive markers with the form yon ‘own’.

The indefinite pronouns sɔmbɔdi, sɔmtin, ɛnibɔdi, ɛnitin, nɔmbɔdi, natin roughly correspond in form and meaning with English somebody, something, anybody, anything, nobody, and nothing. The only difference is that the negative indefinite pronouns invariably cooccur with the negative marker nɔ ‘not’. For example:

(11)          nɔmbɔdi   nɔ      kam

            not    come

                 ‘No one was here.’

Adnominal possessive constructions are formed with the 3rd person singular pronoun in intervening between the possessor NP and possessum1. For example:

(12)          di      uman     in      os

                 art   woman  her    house

                 ‘the woman’s house’

Adjectives invariably precede the noun they modify in Krio when they are used attributively (see 13a). However, adjectives can also be used predicatively (i.e. after the noun), when they perform a verbal function (see 13b). For example (Fyle & Jones 1980: xxxi):

(13)   a.    plɛnti pikin

                 ‘many children’

         b.    pikin plɛnti

                 ‘Children are many.’ (i.e. there are lots of children.)

Adjective comparisons indicating equal or unequal attributes are expressed by serialized lɛk ‘be like’ or pas ‘surpass’ respectively. For example:

(14)          di      pikin   fain                   lɛk          in           mama

                 art   child   good.looking   his/her  mother

                 ‘The child is as good-looking as his/her mother.’

(15)          di      pikin   fain                 pas         in           mama

                 art   child   good.looking  surpass his/her  mother

                 ‘The child is better-looking than his/her mother.’

Krio does not have a grammaticalized way of encoding the superlative. The comparative form pas is used followed by a noun or pronoun denoting multiple entities. For example:

(16)          di      pikin   fain                 pas         dɛm     ɔl     na     di      os

                 art   child   good.looking  surpass them   all   loc   art   house

                 ‘The child is the most beautiful of them all in the house.’

6. Verb phrase

6.1 Verb classes

The Krio verb phrase system includes an indeterminate number of verb classes. The classes in Table 5 are representative verb classes identified by Fyle & Jones (1980: xl):

Table 5. Verb classes in Krio

Identity Verbs:

na ‘it is’; noto ‘it is not’

Inchoative Verbs:

ebul ‘able’; sabi ‘have expertise’

Movement Verbs:

grap ‘get up’; waka ‘walk’; tinap ‘stand up’

General Action Verbs:

tek ‘take’; ala ‘shout’; muf ‘remove/leave’, gi ‘give’

Stative Verbs:

fred ‘fear’; blo ‘rest’; slip ‘sleep’; fiba ‘resemble’

Locative Verbs:

de ‘exist’

Direction Verbs:

kam ‘come’; go ‘go’; kɔmɔt ‘go out of’

Reporting Verbs:

se ‘say’; ritʃ ‘reach/be up to’

Clausal Verbs (i.e. the verbal complement is generally a clause):

mek or ‘so that/let’; pas ‘not unless/until’

Impersonal Verbs:

switi or gudu ‘serves (one) right’

6.2 Tense, aspect, and mood markers

The verbal markers related to tense, aspect, and mood are all preverbal (i.e. occur before the main verb in the verb phrase) and are preceded by the negative particle, if used. These markers are further used grammatically with only a subset of verbs including movement, action, stative, locative, direction, and reporting verbs. Only some of them can be used with inchoative verbs. The different forms and meanings of these markers are set out in Table 6, and examples are given in (17):

Table 6. Tense, aspect, mood











anterior tense


past habitual

bin dɔn

past perfective



‘obliged to’




bin fɔ

‘would/should have’



(17)     Examples of constructions with tense, mood, and aspect markers:

                 a du am               ‘I do it’ (no marker)

                 a di du am           ‘I am doing it’

                 a go du am          ‘I will do it’

                 a kin du am         ‘I usually do it’; ‘I can/could do it’

                 a dɔn du am        ‘I have done it’

                 a bin du am         ‘I did it’

                 a bin dɔn du am  ‘I had done it’

                 a blant du am      ‘I used to do it’

                 a fɔ du am           ‘I should do it’

                 a bin fɔ du am     ‘I would/should have done it’

                 a mɔ́s du am        ‘I definitely will do it’

                 a wan du am       ‘I want to do it’

The ordering of these markers generally conforms to the sequence tense – mood – aspect. For example:

(18)          yu     bin                    dɔn        du     am    yɛstade

                 you   pst      should     pfv        do     it       yesterday

                          tense   mood       aspect

                 ‘You should have done it yesterday.’

6.3 Verbal negation

The verbal negative particle is used after the subject NP and precedes all the verbal markers used in the construction, as in the following question in Krio:

(19)          yu          bin             dɔn      du     am    yɛstade

                 you   neg   pst    mod     pfv      do     it       yesterday

                 ‘Shouldn’t you have done it yesterday?’

6.4 Copula

The copulas na (affirmative, cf. ex. 20) and noto (negative, cf. ex. 22) are used to introduce predicative nouns but not predicative adjectives. The copula is null for the latter (cf. ex. 21 and 23). For example:

(20)          dis       wan  ya        na       mi      sista

                 dem     one   here     cop     my    sister

                 ‘This (one) is my sister.’ 

(21)          dis       bokit      ya        Ø    ful

                 dem     bucket   here    Ø    full

                 ‘This bucket is full.’

(22)          da        wan  de        noto         mi      brɔda

                 dem     one   there   neg.cop   my    brother

                 ‘That (one) is not my brother.’

(23)          da     bokit      de           ful

                 dem   bucket   there   not full

                 ‘That bucket (over there) is not full.’

Note that the copula with predicative locatives is de. For example:

(24)          a     de        na        os

                 I      cop      loc      house

                 ‘I’m at home.’

6.5 Verb serialization

This is one of the most distinguishing features of Krio, differentiating it from English, its lexifier language (Finney 2003; Nylander 1981, 1984, 1985a, 1985b; Williams 1971). Such constructions generally contain one syntactic subject and a series of lexical verbs that are not linked by an overt conjunction (subordinate or coordinate) or complementizer. A lexical subject is prohibited from appearing in front of subsequent verbs in the series. In addition, one verb does not serve as an auxiliary or infinitival complement to other verbs in the series. Nylander (1981: 104–105) identifies eight different categories of serial verbs in Krio. For example:

Benefactive (Dative)

(25)          a     kin       bai       ɔrintʃ   gi        am

                 I      hab      buy     orange            give     him

                 ‘I usually buy him an orange.’


(26)          i        tek    nɛf       kɔt       di         bif

                 s/he   take   knife   cut       the       meat

                 ‘S/he cut the meat with a knife.’


(27)          fes         di         it            kam

                 bring     the       food      come

                 ‘Bring the food here.’

Superiority, Equality, or Inferiority

(28)          una       bin    dʒɛntri  pas        wi

          pst  surpass us

                 ‘You were richer than we were.’


(29)          a     dɔn      wok     dɔn

                 I      pfv      work   finish

                 ‘I have finished working.’


(30)          wi    dɔn      wok     du

                 we   pfv      work   be.enough

                 ‘We have worked enough.’


(31)          i      kin       tɔk       pasmak

                 s/he hab      talk     exceed.limit

                 ‘S/he usually talks too much.’


(32)          a     dɔn      it          bɛlful

                 I      pfv      eat       be.full

                 ‘I am full as a result of eating.’

7. Simple sentences

The word order for simple sentences with monotransitive and ditransitive verbs (matrix and subordinate clauses) in Krio is SVO (ex. 33 and 34). Double object constructions are preferred (i.e. more commonly used, see ex. 34) over use of a preposition in ditransitive constructions in mesolectal and acrolectal varieties (ex. 35). Generally, a serial verb construction is used to refer to recipient-theme situations (ex. 36).

(33)          di    man     it          di         bred

                 art man    eat       art      bread

                 ‘The man ate the bread.’

(34)          di    man     gi         di         pikin    di         bred

                 art man    give     art      child    art      bread

                 ‘The man gave the child the bread.’

(35)          di    man     gi         di         bred     to         di         pikin

                 art man    give     art      bread  prep    art      child

                 ‘The man gave the bread to the child.’

(36)          di    man     tek       di         bred     gi         di         pikin

                 art man    take     art      bread  give     art      child

                 ‘The man gave the bread to the child.’

In interrogative constructions, there is no inversion of the subject and the auxiliary verb, though the question pronoun (if used) is generally fronted (as in English). For example:

(37)          di    man     de        it          bred

                 art man    prog   eat       bread

                 ‘Is the man eating bread?’

(38)          wetin           di         man     de        it

                 what           art      man    prog   eat

                 ‘What is the man eating?’

Krio does not exhibit a prototypical passive construction. The closest to passives are constructions with ambitransitive verbs, such as ‘open’, which can be used transitively (example 39) or intransitively (example 40).

(39)          bil   opin     di         do

                 Bill  open    art      door

                 ‘Bill opened the door.’

(40)          di    do        opin

                 art door    open

                 ‘The door opened.’

Reflexivity and reciprocity are both expressed through the use of reflexive pronouns. For example:

(41)          dɛn              lɛk   dɛnsɛf

                 they    neg      like  themselves

                 ‘They don’t like themselves/each other.’

The interpretation of dɛnsɛf as a reflexive or a reciprocal depends on the context in which it is used.

8. Complex sentences

Krio exhibits a number of complex constructions that are different in form and function from its lexifier language English. These include focus constructions and different forms of sentential complementation (Finney 2003; Nylander 1984, 1985a, 1985b; Williams 1971, 1976).

8.1 Focus constructions

Focus constructions are used to emphasize a specific part of the sentence using the focus marker na. This marker is used to emphasize not only nominals, but also wh-interrogatives, as well as verbal and adjectival predicates. For example:

(42)          na       plaba     dɛn      de        mek

                 FOC   quarrel  they    prog   make

                 ‘It is a quarrel that they are having.’ (‘They are quarreling.’)

(43)          na       aki    wi      bin    si

                 FOC   Aki   we     pst    see

                 ‘It was Aki whom we saw.’

(44)          na     udat    bin       kam

                 FOC who    pst      come

                 ‘Who was here?’ ‘Who came by here?’ (Lit. ‘Who was it that was here?’)

(45)          na       gladi      dɛn        gladi

                 FOC   happy   they       happy

                 ‘They are really happy.’ (Lit. ‘It was happy that they were happy.’)

(46)          na          bai     dɛm   bin     bai       di         bia

                 FOC      buy   they  pst     buy     the       beer

                 ‘They actually bought the beer.’ (Lit. ‘It is buy that they bought the beer.’)

8.2 The sentential complementizer se

Four complementizers, all always overt, can be identified in Krio, with the sentential complementizer se being the most common and sometimes controversial in linguistic analysis. One aspect of the controversy revolves around whether it functions as a verb or a complementizer. It is homophonous with the lexical verb meaning ‘say’ in Krio, as is the case in a number of other creoles. For example:

(47)          a     tiŋk      se         dɛm     dɔn      kam

                 I      think   comp   they     pfv      come

                 ‘I think that they have arrived.’

(48)          i      laikli           se        aki    win    loto

                 it     (be).likely  comp   Aki   win   lottery

                 ‘It’s likely that Aki won the lottery.’

(49)          di         rumɔ      se           aki       win   loto        na tru

                 the      rumour comp     Aki      win   lottery   is  truth

                 ‘The rumour that Aki won the lottery is true.’

(50)          wetin   yu     tɛl      am    se           apin

                 what   you   tell     him   comp     happen

                 ‘What did you say happened?’ (Lit. ‘What did you tell him that happened?’)

8.3 The subordinating particle we

Another productive process of subordination in Krio is the use of the particle we, which is phonologically and functionally similar to English where and which and is generally used to introduce relative clauses (examples 51–52) or as a complementizer in experiencer constructions (examples 53–54). For example:

(51)          di    titi        we        a          bin       gi         di         buk      to         dɔn      kam

                 the  girl      that     I          pst      gave    the       book   to         pfv      come

                 ‘The girl (whom/that) I gave the book to is here.’

(52)          a     sabi     di         man     we        wi        si         yɛstade

                 I      know  the       man    that     we       see       yesterday

                 ‘I know the man (whom/that) we saw yesterday.’

(53)          a     bin       vɛx       we        yu        trowe   di         wata

                 I      pst      angry  that     you      spill     the       water

                 ‘I was angry (that) you spilled the water.’

(54)          a             bin       gladi    we        yu        ala       pan      mi

                 I      neg      pst      happy that     you      yelled  at         me

                 ‘I wasn’t happy (that) you yelled at me.’

8.4 The infinitival complement/complementizer

The marker functions primarily as an infinitival marker and is considered a parallel to the English infinitival (in order) to, which introduces infinitival clauses. It additionally functions to a limited extent as a complementizer and as a causal preposition. For example:

(57)          a       wan                   go     na        os

                 I        want   comp        go     loc      house

                 ‘I want to go home.’

(58)          a       briŋ       di      nɛf                    kɔt     di      bred

                 I        bring     art   knife purp           cut    art   bread

                 ‘I brought the knife (in order) to cut the bread.’

(59)          a     wan                     mek     yu   pe   mi     mi      mɔni

                 I     want   comp          make  you pay me    my    money

                 ‘I want you to pay me my money.’

(60)          i      vɛks     pan   im     padi                         da        lili        plaba

                 he   upset  with  his    friend    caus             that     little    quarrel

                 ‘He is upset with his friend because of a small quarrel.’

9. The lexicon

Lexical items of English origin account for about 80% of the vocabulary of Krio (Fyle & Jones 1980:x) though a large number of words are borrowed from West African languages, particularly Yoruba, which is second only to English as the largest contributor to Krio vocabulary. While the pronunciations of English borrowings have in most cases been modified, words borrowed from African languages have generally retained the pronunciations they had in the language of origin.

9.1. Compounds

Krio has a rich system of idiomatic expressions in the form of compounding, which seem to have parallels in some West African languages. Table 7 gives some examples (Finney 2002).

Table 7. Some compounds in West African languages and Krio

language      compound          parts                          gloss

Igbo:            anya uku             eye + big                    ‘greed’

Krio:            big yay                 big + eye                    ‘greed’

Yoruba:       ɛnu didu              mouth + sweet          ‘persuasiveness’

Ga:               na mo                  sweet + mouth          ‘flattery’

Twi:             ano yɛdɛ              mouth + sweet          ‘flattery’

Krio:            switmɔt                sweet + mouth          ‘persuasiveness’

Krio:            swityay                 sweet + eye                ‘womanizing’

Krio:            switpis                 sweet + urine            ‘diabetes’

Kikongo:     kanga ntima        tie + heart                 ‘adamant’

Krio:            tranga at             strong + heart          ‘adamant’

Krio:            big-at                   big + heart                ‘proud, stubborn’

Krio:            bad at                  bad + heart               ‘envy, jealousy’

9.2 Iterative and compound reduplication

Both iterative and compound reduplication are used extensively and perform a variety of functions in Krio. Iterative reduplication is generally used to express emphasis or intensity and tone marking on the lexical items remains unchanged from the tone markings on the lexical items that undergo reduplication. The general meaning of the item is also retained. The lexical item resulting from compound reduplication is however assigned a meaning that is different from that of the original lexical items when used in isolation. That is, compound reduplication generally results in the formation of an exocentric compound. In the examples in Table 8, the monosyllabic lexical items retain their original falling tones in the iterative examples but are assumed a LH sequence in the compound forms (Finney 2002).

Table 8. Iterative and compound reduplication

monosyllabic                                  gloss        iterative                      gloss               compound     gloss

bɛn               (A) ‘bent’; ‘crooked’                bɛn bɛn                      (A) ‘very crooked’;   bɛn-bɛn           (A) ‘not being straightforward’

                                                                         ‘twisted’                    L   H

čuk               (V) ‘prick’; ‘stab’     čuk čuk    (V) ‘prick (or stab)   čuk-čuk          (N) ‘thorns’

                                                                         all over’                      L    H

pik                (V) ‘to pick’              pik pik      (V) ‘to pick inten-     pik-pik            (A) ‘kleptomania’

                                                                         sively’                         L   H